The Seventh HourBy: Tracey Ward
Change doesn’t happen overnight.
That’s what they used to say. I bet it used to be true.
Now it’s an idiom, a phrase we use out of six hundred year old habit that has no literal meaning anymore. Not since the world changed and everything was forced to change with it. The people, the animals. The weather and the landscape. The very nature of the Earth shifted, taking all of us with it.
And no, it didn’t happen overnight.
It was painfully slow. The rotation of the Earth took its time grinding to a halt. It spent over a hundred years losing momentum until finally it leveled off, but the damage was done. We revolved around the sun the same way we always had, but the Earth’s spin had all but stopped, and humanity’s concept of time stopped right along with it.
What used to take twenty-four hours now took a year to complete, the Earth’s revolution around the sun our only true movement. Dawn to dusk lasted six of those months. Over one hundred and eighty days of burning, unrelenting sunlight that scorched the earth and killed every living thing in its path. Rivers and lakes dried up, plants and crops burned alive, temperatures soared to sweltering heights.
Then the night would come. Dusk to dawn lasting another six months. The baked landscape cooled and froze over. What the sun didn’t kill the cold would finish off, and it did it in the dark. Thousands of hours of living nightmare, one you couldn’t wake up from.
It was even worse when the storms rolled in. When the animals woke up.
We adapted or we died, and if there was one good thing about the slowing of the Earth it was that it gave us time. Time to learn, time to prep, time to adjust. Time to save what technology we needed to survive and cast the rest aside. To build cities to withstand the bitter cold and the blistering heat.
Some people burrowed into the mountains, building their homes and cities under the ground. They hid from the elements and they waited out the summers. The winters. The hours.
Others refused to hide. As the oceans pooled to the north and south, burying the old world and raising a new supercontinent that circled the Earth like a ring, they took to the sea. They built boats, set sail, and left the frigid night and burning day behind. They stay in the hours in between, in the half-light. That perfect hour. The golden hour.
The Seventh hour.
I imagine swimming is a lot like flying. You’re weightless and diving, soaring. It’s exhilarating. Quiet. Just you and the elements, the water and the air, speaking to you in a language you can’t understand, urging you to fly higher, to dive deeper, and maybe they’re going to get you killed but for just a moment you’re more alive than you’ve ever been before. You’ve broken free of man’s middle plain, the space between, and you’ll never be the same again.
Yes, I imagine flying is a lot like swimming.
And I can do neither.
I look down to the frothing water below me, my bare feet dangling on either side of the thick bowsprit jutting out from the front of our ship. The skirts of my dress billow in the wind like thin red sails that have lost their lines. Like wings beating, trying desperately to fly, but they can’t. They never learned how. They buffet against my legs that are growing cold, and I wonder if it isn’t time to come in. It’s probably too late. I’m sure I’ve already been spotted and once word gets back to him, I’m sunk. As surely as if I slid off this mast and into the sea right now.
“Do I even want to know the logic behind this?”
I don’t turn. I’m not surprised to hear Gav’s voice behind me. I’m actually surprised it’s taken this long for him to show up.
“Behind what?” I call over my shoulder.
“Behind you hanging out on the front of the boat like a figurehead.”
“Do you know what the figurehead on this ship is?”
“An angst-ridden seventeen year old girl?”
I grin faintly. “Close. A blond mermaid with boobs bigger than my head.”
“On the other ships are a lion, an angel, and a unicorn.”
“That’s only four.”
“The fifth Dasher doesn’t have one.”
“Why do you know this? Have you sat on the front of all of the ships like this?”